Themes are ideas that are recurring throughout a story, and they’re expressed in different ways; such as a character’s thoughts and feelings, the way they act and what they say—the whole narrative of a story may even revolve around certain major themes. In both Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Miller’s The Crucible, major themes like Power, Guilt and Portrayal of Women drive the plots in a similar but yet different way. To begin, the theme of Power is represented as corrupting in both literary works. In The Crucible, as hysteria grows in Salem, the villagers are more tempted to believe in anything such as groundless accusations of witchcraft. Abigail, a teenage orphan girl who plays a central role in the witch hunt, takes advantage of her newfound power to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor in order to be with John. In Act 2, John Proctor declares to Reverend Hale that the girls have gone wild:“Is the accuser always holy now? […] We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and the common vengeance writes the law! This warrant’s vengeance! I’ll not give my wife to vengeance!” (The Crucible, p.77)This quote shows that the girls—who were found out by Parris in the forest at the beginning of the play—have control over the town of Salem now. However, only a few realize that the girls are lying and that they’re just trying to save their hides by blaming innocents that were ostracized already by other members of the community—such as Ann Putnam supporting the accusation against Rebecca Nurse. Moreover, since the Church and the Law has recognised that they have ‘redeemed’ themselves (the girls), Danforth and Hathorne (judges) both believe in the accusations of witchcraft against other villagers of the community; anyone who goes against their decisions are seen as an affront to their authority. In Macbeth, it’s the prophecy of the three witches that tempts Macbeth in killing King Duncan; but he doesn’t want to do it because he’s a loyal subject. However, when Lady Macbeth hears of it, she immediately plans to get the throne since she wants to become Queen—she’s power hungry. Then, she convinces her husband to commit murder by questioning his manliness. After Macbeth becomes king, he gets called a tyrant because he rules Scotland with an iron fist and kills anyone who would try to usurp him. For example, he sends murderers to kill Banquo since he fears the prophecy and he believes Banquo to be better than him.“Macbeth [Aside]: Time, thou anticipatest my dread exploits:The flighty purpose never is o’ertookUnless the deed go with it: from this moment,The very firstlings of my heart shall beTo crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done;The castle of Macduff I will surprise;Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o’ the swordHis wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls That trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool;This deed I’ll do before this purpose cool” (Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I, p.177)In this quote, Macbeth orders an assassination attempt upon Macduff’s family—showing that his paranoia of losing his power is getting to him. In fact, he orders the death of even the children since he fears retribution from them. Thus, Lady Macbeth represents the desire for power in the play whereas Macbeth’s abuse of said power is called tyranny. To conclude, the theme of Power is intertwined with corruption as the desire for power or to keep it make the characters resort to manipulation or murder. To continue, the theme of Guilt, although present in both literary works, it’s caused by different events. In The Crucible, guilt shackles John Proctor throughout most of the play and it’s caused by his act of infidelity towards his wife—which makes him believe to be irreparable in the eyes of God, Elizabeth and himself. His inability to let go of his sin, coupled with his resentment of Elizabeth’s lack of forgiveness—he feels like she doesn’t trust him—only aggravates his guilt: “Elizabeth: I do not judge you. The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you. I never thought you but a good man, John—with a smile—only somewhat bewildered.” (The Crucible, Act 2, p.54-55). In this quote, John’s quarreling with his wife because he feels targeted of suspicion of adultery and he’s tired of it. However, Elizabeth only replies by telling him that it’s himself that judging himself (“magistrate sits in your heart that judges you”), which shows that his guilt permeates his thoughts. As the witch hunt in Salem worsens and his wife is accused by Abigail, he willingly confessed his adultery in court to save Elizabeth so she could forgive him—but the court doesn’t believe him as she lies to protect him. While he didn’t want to admit this at start since admitting his sin in public would intensify the extent of it—and thereby increase his guilt—he does it for his wife, earning her trust.“Proctor: I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint. It is a fraud. I am not that man. My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. […] I will not hear it! I know you! Elizabeth: You take my sins upon you, John— Proctor: No, I take my own, my own!” (The Crucible, Act 4, p.136-137)At the end of the play, he refuses to nail his false accusation on the Church’s door because he realizes that living a lie would not be worth it, showing his integrity, along with Elizabeth’s forgiveness enables John Proctor to finally let go of his guilt. In Macbeth,To finish, the theme of Portrayal of Women is important for both plays as strong female leads help drive the plot in each of them. In The Crucible, the female leads are both Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor. Miller’s portrayal of women in the play fits the prejudice against women during that time, which showed honest family-oriented women who had less power and the unmarried teenagers running rampant. For example, Elizabeth Proctor is spared—for a year—only because she’s pregnant and the Puritan leaders wouldn’t kill an unborn baby. She’s portrayed as an obedient woman, with strong morals, that had never lied prior to save her one time adulterous husband; she takes on blame that should not be hers.“Elizabeth: John, it come naught that I should forgive you, if you’ll not forgive yourself […] I have read my heart in this three month, John. I have sins of my own to count. It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery. […] John I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did; I never knew how I should say my love. It were a cold house I kept!” (The Crucible, Act 4, p.137)This shows that although she’s portrayed as ‘good’, she’s self-deprecating, believing herself at fault which caused more strife with her husband for most of the play. However, on the other hand, Abigail Williams presents a different kind of woman in the play; one that doesn’t adhere to the Puritan ideals and tries to seduce John, a sin that would send her to hell according to the Puritan mindset. She realizes that blaming people of witchcraft can get them removed from society, and she uses her newfound influence over the leaders (judges and reverends) to take revenge. She’s portrayed as a selfish and vindictive girl with loose morals showing no regrets for her actions—the complete opposite of Elizabeth: “Abigail: […] I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men! […] You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet! John, pity me, pity me!” (The Crucible, Act 1, p.24).
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